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"Blast 'Em!!:" Creating Blaster FX
Part 1: Observation and References of Blaster Bolts
by Jedi Knight Toren Depor

    Let's face it, there are millions of people doing all sorts of computer special effects, and most of them suck at it. I've seen photorealistic fire and terrible looking fire done in the exact same version of the exact same program. The problem is that allot of these folks try to create an effect off the top of their head without doing any research. They don't bother to go out and get reference images or videos, study the real thing, and that is why most computer effects look artificial.
    When it comes to Star Wars blasters, the Star Wars Fan Film community has done a fairly good job recreating this effect, much more so than lightsabre effects. Nevertheless, it is important that we study this effect BEFORE we try to recreate it.
 

OBSERVATION 1: Blasters Aren't White
    Although I have rarely seen this in Fan Films, it must be noted that unlike lightsabres, blaster bolts don't have a solid white core. Instead, they have a lighter shade of the base color. The lightness of the core varies from shot to shot, and blaster color to blaster color. Most blaster bolts when seen from a distance don't appear to be much brighter than the outer glow color, while very close shots, mainly those seen in the Episode I: The Phantom Menace, appear to be almost white. Here are several examples showing this.
 


Figure 1-1


Figure 1-2


Figure 1-3

OBSERVATION 2: Notes on Spaceship Blasters
    The blaster bolts fired by the weapons onboard space craft, from tiny starfighters to large capital ships, tend to be slightly different than those fired by hand weapons. There are two major differences here, one being that they are much longer than ordinary blaster bolts and the other being that they are much more powerful, resulting in a brighter core, even when viewed from a distance. The shape is also more rounded and less cylindrical. The images below show examples of this.
 


Figure 1-4


Figure 1-5

Part 2: Creating a Blaster Bolt
    Creating a long and narrow cylinder with tapered ends and a glowing texture.
Part 3: Creating a Simple Firing Animation
    Creating a path between the muzzle of the gun and the target.
Part 4: Adding a Muzzle Flash
    Modeling and animating a simple muzzle flash effect.
Part 5: Adding an Impact Explosion
    Creating the nice little explosion that occurs when a blaster bolt hits a metal object like a battle droid.
Part 6: Adding an Impact Flare
    Making the flare that appears when a blaster bolt strikes a person.
 

DOWNLOADS
Completed Project File 1.58 MB
    Contains all of the materials, models, actions, and choreographies used in this tutorial.
Tutorial: Off-Line Version 217KB
    All of these tutorials downloadable as a ZIP Archive.
Tutorial: Off-Line Version 222KB
    All of these tutorials downloadable as a SIT Archive.
 

CREDITS:
Tutorial by Jedi Knight Toren Depor (a.k.a. Filmmaker Matt Pfingsten)
 
Special Thanks to
The Animaster Mailing List for providing such great feedback and support on all of my tutorials.
TheForce.Net for hosting this tutorial
Cactusbud Studios for their Battle Droid Model
Hash Inc. for making such powerful 3D software
George Lucas for creating Star Wars

 

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